Gaza treated with contempt by international community
What are the chances of the Israeli authorities ever being held accountable for the killings in Gaza?
Will there be a proper, independent investigation of what has transpired since March 30, with Israeli soldiers killing 104 Palestinians and injuring 12,600, many with live fire? One Israeli soldier was injured by a stone, but no doubt accountability was already dished out to the perpetrator with a bullet. We may never know.
Let us start with a credit card. The theft of a cheap, lousy piece of plastic and its use to withdraw $398 was the sole crime the Israeli authorities admitted to during the entire 22 days of the 2008-2009 war on Gaza. The soldier was sentenced to seven-and-a-half months in a military jail. Israeli forces killed 1,383 Palestinians, more than 80 percent of whom were civilians, schools and hospitals were bombed, and white phosphorous was used, but somehow the only crime Israel admitted was petty theft.
Stealing money from Palestinians seems to be of greater concern than killing them. One Israeli soldier shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem and he got just a nine-month jail sentence. He did have to pay $14,000 damages to the family. Elor Azaria, who shot a Palestinian in cold blood as he lay on the ground in Hebron, must feel hard done by as he got a sentence, albeit curiously for manslaughter not murder, of 18 months, which was later reduced to 14 and he was released after nine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not alone in Israel in demanding that Azaria got a full pardon, reflecting the soldier’s near-hero status.
For comparison’s sake, slapping an Israeli soldier — that is, if you are born a Palestinian and are a child — merits eight months in prison, as Ahed Tamimi has discovered.
Gaza is treated with contempt. The world just watches Israel bludgeoning the planet’s largest open-air prison, where life has become nothing more than a struggle for survival, typically on food handouts
Settlers are a different category. The Israeli army is effectively the “sovereign power” in the occupied West Bank but protests it cannot arrest Israeli citizens there including settlers. It can arrest a Palestinian child for slapping a soldier but not a settler for killing a Palestinian. The police have to come to arrest an Israeli, if they turn up at all.
According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, only 8 percent of ideologically motivated attacks on Palestinians — 94 out of 1,163 cases since 2005 — were investigated. Palestinians are, it says, increasingly reluctant to even file a case, seeing it as a waste of time.
About the only point that Israeli war crimes apologists do have is the lack of accountability elsewhere in the region. To even conceive that Syrian regime figures will be held accountable for the inhumane siege and bombing of Yarmouk refugee camp in south Damascus any time soon is optimism on steroids.
Hamas also has to be held accountable. Did it seek to exploit the Gaza protests, to make them violent and to breach the fence with intent to kill? Maybe, though nothing the Israeli authorities have presented as yet demonstrates there was any imminent threat to life posed to their heavily armed and protected forces. Moreover, Israel has a gilded status of immunity as an ally to the powerful, whereas Hamas is a pariah, sanctioned and isolated. Israel enforces accountability against Hamas leaders largely through dropping bombs on them. Those who enjoy seeing Palestinians targeted are all too keen to present Hamas as gospel truth tellers when it claimed 50 out of 62 of those killed last Monday were members of the group. Moral inversion was taken to new depths when a notorious apologist claimed: “Israel’s actions saved the lives of Gazans.”
The increasingly fictional international community is largely inactive on Israeli settler crime and on Israeli soldiers using live fire in the West Bank when there is no imminent threat, as it was after Israel’s four wars on Gaza since 2006. Will it be any different now over the Gaza killings? Gaza is treated with contempt. The world just watches Israel bludgeoning the planet’s largest open-air prison, where life has become nothing more than a struggle for survival, typically on food handouts.
The UN Human Rights Council has announced an independent inquiry. Firstly, it will not be allowed access to Israel or Gaza. Secondly, whatever the findings of the inquiry, they will just be ignored and shrugged off as partisan. The body is too weak, and its failure to hold other states to account undermines its efforts to do the same for Israel. Even so, for countries like Britain to abstain in the vote is yet another act of miserable collusion with Israeli crimes. The US has blocked calls for an investigation into the killings at the UN Security Council, which would have been perhaps the only chance of establishing an investigation that might have been taken seriously.
It begs the question just how far does Israel have to go to get a minor ticking off by the US administration? If Israeli snipers had killed 500, 1,000 or 10,000 Palestinians, would the reaction have been the same? Israeli stooges claim this was a restrained and proportionate action, so good luck to the Palestinians if they are on the end of an unrestrained and disproportionate attack by Israeli forces. The scary thought is what would stop them?
- Chris Doyle is director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). He has worked with the council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. Twitter: @Doylech